Reflection: First Sunday of Lent

Welcome to our series of Lent and Easter reflections.

Our reflection for the first Sunday of Lent considers the imagery of the shifting season and the role of nature within Lent. It is inspired by Mark 1:9-15.

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Mark 1:9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’.


Robert Herrick, in the 17th century, debated what Lent should be like. Must he have ‘a downcast look and sour?’ he wondered. He knew that we make Lent such an effort, worrying away about giving up this and that. In Greece, as Lent begins, villages observe ‘Clean Monday’ and folk rush into the countryside for a picnic. It is a day to celebrate forgiveness and a ‘clean’ conscience. Better still, they fly kites, to get nearer to heaven. 
A picnic in the countryside has a different feel from the way we trudge through the wilderness.  What they know in Greece is that, in Lent, we begin to shake off winter. So, orthodox christians play with the imagery of a shifting season. They talk about the ‘flower of repentance’ that begins to open. You can also find a hint of all this in Mark’s gospel where Jesus spends his ‘Lent’ with wild beasts and angels. Mark wants us to notice that Jesus has returned to Eden where once humans were safe with the animals. Lent is less peculiar than we make it; forgiveness and reconciliation is the way the world is put right. Lent is a glimpse of Eden, or even a kite flying near to heaven. 


Almighty God, whose steadfast love is as great as the heavens are high above the earth, remove our sins from us, as far as the east is from the west, strengthen our life in his kingdom and keep us upright to the last day; through Jesus Christ our merciful High Priest.